rachel elizabeth

Formerly Known as Fern

"A dream that you'll never want to wake up from."

-Razmataz Magazine

Filtering by Tag: saskatchewan

Ticks, tattoos and tacks: EXPERIENCE REGINA

After our show in Fort Qu’Appelle, Sarah and I loaded up our gear (in the rain of course) and started the 45 minute trek to Regina, SK. Since we were playing a show there the next afternoon, Sarah’s Grandma had offered to let us stay at her empty condo. Of course we accepted, because free accommodations/beds is pretty ideal.

The plan was to eat and crash, but upon several unsuccessful tries to open the suite door, it became very clear that we didn’t have the right keys. Now, when you’re tired, have a car full of gear, and a bag of A&W waiting to be eaten, this is not the best news.  Luckily, Sarah had other relatives in town, so she went on a text spree to figure out who was still up (it was around 11pm at this point) and could get us spare keys. While she was hustling to solve our accommodation woes, I ate my chicken strips in the lobby, like a jerk. To be fair, there wasn’t much I could do in regards to texting someone else’s family. It turned out that her Grandma had accidentally given us her lake keys, but an Aunt about 10 minutes was able to save our butts. Sleep was now in the realm of possibility.

So we get to the apt, unload, and start to unwind for the evening. Everything is good and chill, until Sarah comes out of the bathroom to ask ‘Is there a tick on my back?’ There was definitely a tick on her back. To most prairie people I feel like this wouldn’t be a big deal, but I hate ticks. I hate every kind of bug that bites. I am terrified of getting Lyme Disease. I really, really hate ticks. They embed their heads into you and suck your blood. No, thank you. It’s gross, but when your friend and tour mate has a tick on them, you rally your nerves and help get it off.

Removing the tick was gross and I hated every minute of it, but I faced my fear and got it off of her with minimal difficulty. If you can call five minutes of squealing minimal difficulty. I can. It was obviously worse for Sarah, so I shouldn't complain too much! Once the adrenaline high wore off, it was time for sweet sleep.

I slept well (hard mattresses are amazing) and woke up to some fresh tea courtesy of Sarah. I had had the bright idea of maybe getting a tattoo at the Pile of Bones tattoo convention, so we decided to check that out before out show. Now, every once in awhile I royally screw up GPS directions. This time I put in the address that I thought was for the convention. In reality it took us to the doorstep of the Hell’s Angel Clubhouse. I mean, whatever. But this was not where we needed to be and time is a precious resource when you have a 2pm show. I quickly corrected my mistake and we were off in the right direction

It turns out a room full of tattoo needles is super loud. The noise was audible before we even entered the room. At that point, I was pretty sure I was going to chicken out. Partially for budget reasons, partially because the tattoo artist I wanted to go to was already working on someone, and partially because I didn’t want an adrenaline crash right before a show. Instead, we poked around, looked at cool art and flip flopped about getting our own tattoos.

Spoiler alert. I didn’t get one. One day I will get a tour tat, though. One day.

By the time we got out of the tattoo convention it was around 11am and we still had to eat and load up our gear. 2 hours till load in. No problem, right? So wrong. Rather than write several paragraphs about what went led us to almost being late for a show, I made a list: 

1)   The restaurant we planned to go to was closed due to an equipment malfunction. Mercury Lounge, I’ll get to you one day!

2)   The next restaurant had a long line up and we weren’t enthused by the menu. At least I wasn’t. That felt important to me at the time. If I could go back in time, I would probably suck it up and order something.

3)   The next place we ended up was suuuuper busy, but we decided to stay rather than risk wasting more time driving around just to find another packed place.

4)   The food took so long, we almost thought it wasn’t coming. Then it did.

5)   After scarfing some grub and packing the rest to-go, we realized the line-up to pay was, also super long. Shit.

6)   We weren’t able to pay for our food until uncomfortably close to our load in time AND we still had to run back to the apt to get gear. This is when I started to panic. Bad news.

We arrived uncomfortably close to show time, but WE MADE IT. I was keeping Alex, our library (RPL) contact updated, so at least it wasn’t a surprise. Still, not my ideal first impression or a good way to start a gig. Amazingly, she was super chill about everything. I felt a lot better when she told me Carl from Library Voices once showed up 10 minutes before his show of the series. Carl, thank you for setting a precedent. You were our guardian angel in this scenario.

Stressed and sweaty, we hustled to carry our gear upstairs (more panic), get set up and quickly sound-check. I’m pretty proud of our hustle. We rocked the set up and only ended up starting 15 mins late. I mean, at a bar show that’s considered an early start, so not too bad? Right?

The show was part of Regina Public Library’s Songwriting Stories series, which is a monthly event where, you guessed it, songwriters have a chance to play and talk about the stories behind the songs. Sarah and I had a pretty good banter rhythm as we switched off playing, so we were able to break the ice a little bit by talking about our almost tattoos and our ‘oh, crap we’re going to be late’ moment. For this particular situation, it felt like the best way to acknowledge shitting the bed a bit.

Despite our tardiness and stress, the show went pretty ok! Because we were taking turns, we each got 5 minute breaks in between songs. This was a nice change, especially since I was very sweaty from load in/set up. I took that time to take some deep breathes and enjoy Sarah’s music until it was my turn again. I wish I had remembered to take a photo of the little stage. It was a square platform decked out in a bearskin rug and backed by a folding partition. To the right of the stage was one of those portable fireplace shelves, complete with little wire stands for our CDs. Super cute.

After the show, we chatted with Alex and a couple show-goers, then headed back to Sarah’s Grandma’s to pack up and head home. Sarah had mass to get back for and I was ready for a chill car ride home. Whirl.wind.

I think the moral of the story here is that YOU PROBABLY DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THAT when you’re playing shows at new venues or in cities you’re not from. In our case, a lot of these circumstances were out of our control. I still feel like I should have known better, but it was a good learning experience.

Huge thank you to Sarah Farthing for coming along for the ride, making pretty noises, and indulging my whims re: tattoos and finding food. Great, reliable tour mate there folks!

Thanks to all you folks who stuck around to read this series! It’s my first attempt at tour blogging. It’s been a cool way to process the events and have a record of them for the future. If you feel like I’ve missed something or have feedback for me (aside from grammar corrections), feel free to use the comments below.

Until next time.

xoxo

Rachel

I have almost no pictures from Regina because we were so busy! Next time…

Pottery and Good Crowds: Singing in the Qu'Appelle Valley

The first time I played in Fort Qu'Appelle was also the first stop on my first week long tour (Spring 2015). I wasn't sure what to expect. Honestly, it could have been a pretty rocky start to my tour, but it ended being one of my favourite stops. The community at the Qu'Appelle Valley Centre for the Arts is so welcoming and attentive. Their dedicated board puts on events (their poster wall is impressive) in a 100 year old, restored school-house that also serves as an art gallery, art studio and dance studio. Super cool. Obviously I wanted to go back, so I was glad it worked to play there again.

Portrait of Brian Baggett and me by his daughter Dominique. Fort Qu'Appelle April 2015. 

Portrait of Brian Baggett and me by his daughter Dominique. Fort Qu'Appelle April 2015. 

Sarah and I left for the Fort early Saturday afternoon (after doing yet another gear tetris in the trunk of her SUV). Unlike last year (it was freezing rain when I left), we left Saskatoon in pretty decent weather, which made for a chill drive down the 11 and into the Qu'Appelle Valley.

Now, I love being on the road for shows. This might change, but right now it combines a lot of my favourite things: snacks, music, car chats, and coffee. It's also a little more enjoyable than driving to a vacation destination because you (I) have just the right amount of nerves to almost not want to get there. Maybe it's just me? Either way, it's a good segue to another thing about travelling to gigs: there is never enough time.

Whatever you think you have time for on tour, you probably don't. Even though I thought we had left in plenty of time, our last leg felt rushed. Enter me STILL feeling like we definitely had enough time to stop in at my friend Amy's Mom and Step-Dad's Pottery studio in FQ. After a quick visit and purchase, we were on our way to the venue. Luckily, it was only about 3 minutes away (yay, small towns). We were only a few minutes behind schedule.

Sarah and I set up pretty efficiently, had a quick soundcheck, then headed to Penny's (our booking contact) for a nice meal, prepared by her Husband, Hal. As nice as it was to sit down for awhile, we were running pretty short on time *again* and rushed to get changed and head back to the Arts Centre for the show. Once we were back at the venue, I gave Sarah a quick tour of the rest of the Centre and watched some familiar faces trickle in and take their seats. 

Despite our busy day and previous evening, Sarah and I were both ON that night, musically speaking. Sarah was up first and played a really strong set, complete with charming stage banter. When it was my turn, I felt like I had a couple magical moments in my set where I felt raw emotion that didn't destroy my focus. Generally those moments derail my songs live, but it helped that this was our second consecutive show. The space and crowd didn't hurt either. The lighting there is ambient, but not too dark. The general atmosphere is casual, but intimate enough to feel like you're connecting with people. All in all it was a really nice show. And like any good small town event (or any event really) there was coffee and dainties to be had during the break. Do I want to eat a brownie after my set? Yes, yes I do.

After some post-show visits it was time to load up and head to Regina for the night. Time flies. Special shout out to Dylan Evans' (of Fancy Diamonds fame) 93 year old Grandmother, Doreen, who is a proud G-ma AND supporter of the arts. If I'm still going to shows at 93 I'll know I did something right.

Thanks, Fort Qu'Appelle! Joan, Penny, Lorna et. al.

Next blog: Regina, ticks, not having enough time for stuff, making it work, gear set up superstars.

Nerves Normal (Breathe Normal): Saskatoon mini tour kick off at Creative Commons

When I officially changed my band name to Rachel Elizabeth, I knew I wanted to play some shows in celebration of it. That was this weekend's mini-tour with Sarah Farthing.

We started off in Saskatoon, playing a very intimate show at Creative Commons YXE. Creative Commons is the workshop and event space connected to Void Gallery's newest iteration on Ave B, owned and operated by Michael Peterson. I've known Michael for about 10 years now (we even played a few shows together back in the day), so it's been pretty cool to see his artistic vision grow into Void Gallery, and now Creative Commons. Michael recently hosted a show for Seattle musician, Rocky Votolato, so when it came time for me to book a Saskatoon date, I thought of Void/CC. Luckily Michael was down to host us, and we were able to be CC's first local show.

Michael and I performing at Prairie Ink in Saskatoon, circa 2012. Check out those music stands!

Michael and I performing at Prairie Ink in Saskatoon, circa 2012. Check out those music stands!

On show night, we played to a cozy crowd. It's always tough when attendance isn't quite what you want it to be, but I have to remind myself that life happens and the people who show up are who you're playing for. They shouldn't get a lacklustre show just because the event didn't sell out. Luckily, these cats were very attentive and seemed to genuinely enjoy Sarah and I. What more can you ask for? 

Aside from a few technical difficulties (my sustain pedal kept sliding around on the floor, such that I could barely reach it), the show went well. Nerves are always a thing, but we both had some good laughs with the audience. I seem to have started a tradition wherein I ask for audience participation to sing Dolly Parton's 'Jolene', but proceed to forget at least one or two lines. Perhaps this comes across as the epitome of unprofessionalism, but I like to think I'm just charming enough to make it work. Usually, I at least get a few chuckles, or everyone is too busy singing along to care. It's a thing.

After the show, I was s.p.e.n.t. I love playing songs for people, but it can be an overwhelming experience for a weirdo, anxious person like myself. Sometimes I reach a point where chatter/noise become stressful and I need to take a step back. This can be a challenge when you also want to stick around and talk to the people who've come out to support you/bought merch/etc. So much of it has to do with my week leading up to a show, how much prep work is needed to be ready the day of, what the vibes of the venue are. This particular week I'd been doing a lot of press/admin related things about my name change/shows (like this Star Phoenix article) and was more tired than I wanted to be. In the end, I pulled through, but it's a delicate balance I'm still trying to figure out. 

S/O to my partner, Ryan, for helping with load in and merch sales, and to my sister Christina and her fiance Jon, for helping work the door. Obviously, huge thanks to Creative Commons and Michael for being open to the event and giving us the space to put it on. Watch out for their upcoming workshops!

It was also a pleasure to play with Sarah, who in addition to being a rad song-writer, knows a thing or two about live sound (and remembered to bring a merch float). Check out her video for 'Ghost' here.

Since this ended up being a long one, I'm going to save the other dates for separate posts. Fort Qu'Appelle's up tomorrow! Until then, please enjoy these photos from Friday night.

Listen to 'The Spendthrift and the Swallow:' www.rachelelizabethmusic.bandcamp.com